Brown-Nelson Family

The Brown/Nelson Family History Part 1 – The Adopted Family

For this month’s family history, we are going to do something a bit different. Recently, the Museum received a kind donation from Jo-Anne and Remo Mancini who gave their donation in memory of a person of African descent named Fremont Nelson who lived in Amherstburg and Anderdon. This made us want to learn more about Fremont (sometimes spelt Freemont or Freemount) Nelson and his family. What makes this family history unique is that it combines the history of two families: The Nelson family (Fremont’s birth family from Ohio), but also the Brown family who adopted Fremont as a family member in Amherstburg. So, for this month’s family history, we will share the history of the Brown and Nelson families in connection with Fremont Nelson.

Although we could not find any documents that explained why Fremont was adopted into the Brown family, we can share the history of both families, along with their connections to Fremont. Let’s begin with Fremont’s adopted family: The Brown Family. According to notes from the Museum’s collection, John Daniel Brown was born in the US “on a plantation near Baltimore, Maryland” circa 1827. He escaped enslavement and settled in Anderdon in 1852-1853. Our records also indicate that Brown built a residence with the assistance of Nasa McCurdy in the winter of 1852-1853.

Also included in our records is an account from Fremont Nelson, describing the life and escape of John Brown which says “John D. Brown was a mulatto, his father being a white man and master of the plantation. His mother was a slave on the plantation. He was an inmate of the household and was brought up with a half-sister and a half-brother, children of his father’s white wife. Hard times induced his father to agree to his sale as a slave. His white half-sister overheard the bargain and informed John. The resolution was taken to attempt escape. His half-sister provided him with a purse of money, and gave him her own horse and John left in the night after the household had retired. He was missed in the morning as also the horse, and the half-brother made pursuit. Brown was caught up with by his half-brother, who first attempted to persuade him to return, and when John refused, he pulled out a pistol and threated to shoot him unless John gave up the horse and agreed to go back. They wrested for possession of the gun, which John succeeded in taking away from the half-brother, but in the act the pistol discharged and the half brother was shot and killed. John then made his way to the Detroit frontier and crossed into Canada.” A further note. Other references to this story state that John’s half-brother was stabbed rather than shot.

More details of John Daniel Brown’s life are provided in his detailed obituary which appeared in the Amherstburg Echo on March 30, 1906. It says “The death of John D. Brown, an aged and well known colored resident of this township, occurred with startling suddenness Friday last at noon. He and his son had been at Capt. Burns for a load of straw. He assisted with the loading and though exhibiting signs of fatigue no one was prepared for what followed. The son drove over a plowed field while Mr. Brown walked behind the wagon. He was seen to stumble and fall, and when his son reached his side he was gasping his last breath. He literally died in the harness. The remains were removed to his home near the quarry and preparations were made for the funeral which took place on Sunday afternoon. Mr. Brown was well known and highly respected and had been a substantial farmer in Anderdon for half a century, so that a large number turned out to the funeral. Upon arriving at Amherstburg, the cortege was met on Sandwich street by a large contingent from Lincoln Lodge No. 8, F.&A.M., of which the deceased had been a member for over fifty years, and under whose auspices the funeral was held. This lodge was accompanied by twenty-two members of Palestine Preceptory, Windsor, in full regalia, and the Windsor Masonic band, twenty strong, who together with a number of friends came down by special car. Preceded by the band, playing ‘Flowers of Hope’ and the dead march, the procession proceeded to the A.M.E. church where very impressive services were conducted by Rev. A Hackley, of Windsor, assisted by Rev. D.M. Lewis, pastor of the church. The altar, pulpit and choir gallery were all draped in deep mourning, and the choir augmented for the occasion sang appropriate hymns while Mrs. James Kirtley rendered ‘Some Sweet Day,’ very sympathetically. At the conclusion of the services due regard was shown their departed brother by the members of the Masonic bodies present. The remains were taken to Rose Hill cemetery for interment, the pallbearers being John Welsey, Philip Alexander, Leander Jones, Ezekiel Stevens, I. Ward and Simuel McDowell. John Daniel Brown was born in Baltimore, Maryland, 78 years ago and came to this country in 1853. Mr. Brown was married to Miss Sarah Chancellor, of Oberlin, Ohio, on the first day December, A.D. 1852, and after residing in Oberlin awhile came to this country and settled on the farm where his homestead now is, in the Township of Anderdon, residing there until his death. They had three children and an adopted son, namely, William R., who died in Cleveland, Ohio, on July 8th, 1897; John S.H. who resides on the adjoining farm; Sarah E., wife of James A. Nall, who resides in Amherstburg, and his adopted son Fremont Nelson, and these together with his widow, Mrs. Sarah Brown, and five grand children survive him. He was converted about the year 1865 and was a consistent Christian up to the time of his death. He was a member of the A.M.E. church, of Amherstburg, at the time of his decease. He was made a Mason in 1853 and was one of the strong supporters of that institution and endeavored by precept and example to inculcate into the minds of the younger members the true teachings and principles of the order. He was a member, and one of the Past Masters of Lincoln Lodge No. 8. A.F.&A.M., Amherstburg and at the time of his decease was the M. Ex. High Priest of Ebeneezer Chapter No. 4.; He was also a member of Damascus Commandry No. 4., all of the Province of Ontario. He was a Liberal in politics and subscribed for The Echo from its first issue.”

What we publish is not a complete history of any family and is based on the documents that are available. We welcome photos and information to fill in the gaps. See you next week for part 2.

The Brown/Nelson Family History Part 2 – Masonic Tradition

There was no obituary found for John D. Brown’s wife Sarah, but we do know that Sarah’s maiden name was Chancellor (some sources say Chandler), she was from Oberlin, Ohio, and was still living in 1912. Our records indicate that Sarah and John married on December 1, 1852. The couple had 3 children named William R., John S.H. and Sarah Elizabeth, in addition to their adopted son Fremont Nelson.

There was limited information for John and Sarah’s first child, William, but what we do know is that he passed away on July 8, 1897 in Cleveland, Ohio. There was more information for William’s brother John S.H. Brown who resided on the adjoining farm from his parents in Anderdon. According to John S.H.’s death record, his date of birth was October 3, 1858 in Malden and he became a farmer. John S.H. Brown married Fanny/Fannie Winnings of Colchester South on February 19, 1896. Fanny was the daughter of Edward Winnings and the 1881 Census for Colchester North lists Fanny as the daughter of Edward and Emily Winnings, along with her siblings named Daniel, Mary, and Robert. Under nationality, their family is listed as Scottish.

According to the Amherstburg Echo “At the residence of James A. Naul, Sandwich street, on Ash Wednesday evening, Rev. J.A. Holt officiating, John S.D. Brown, of Anderdon, was married to Miss Fanny Winnings. The nuptial knot was tied at 8 o’clock in the presence of about 30 relatives and friends of the contracting parties, after which all partook of a wedding supper. The next couple of hours was spent in social conversation, etc. The couple were the recipients of a number of useful and handsome presents. The groom is the son of John D. Brown, of Anderdon, and they will make their home for the present at the groom’s parents.”

The Amherstburg Echo prints more details about John S.H. in his 1923 obituary which says “John S.H. Brown, son of the late John Daniel and Sarah Brown, died at his home in Anderdon Tuesday, March 27th. He was born in Amherstburg 65 years ago. He was one of a family of three, the other two predeceasing him – William, who died in Cleveland some years ago, and Sarah E., Mrs. James A. Nall, who died in 1910. He was married to Miss Fannie Winning February 19th, 1896, and to the[sic] them were born five children – four boys and a girl who died in infancy. He leaves to mourn his loss his widowed mother, a wife and four sons: Theodore, William E., Richard H. and James A.; an adopted brother, Fremont E. Nelson and one niece, Margaret E. Nall, also a mother-in-law and a host of friends. He was a deacon in the Baptist church, also a member of Lincoln Lodge, No. 8 F.&A.M.” Being a member of the Masonic Lodge was a tradition that John S.H. continued from his father, John D., who was a member for over fifty years.

The 1901 Census lists John and Fanny as living with John’s parents (John D. and Sarah) and both Johns are listed as farmers. John S.H. and Fanny had four boys named Theodore, William, Richard, and James A., and a girl named Daisy who was born on February 6, 1889 in Anderdon, but she sadly passed away a few days later on February 12, 1899. Daisy’s brother Theodore was born on February 18, 1897 and he lived with his parents until at least 1921 because the Census for that year lists Theodore as residing with his parents while he worked as a labourer. The 1921 Census also lists Theodore’s brother William Everette as living with his parents John and Fanny, while he worked as a labourer. William E. was born on April 27, 1901 in Anderdon. William’s brother James Alfred was born on September 23, 1908, while James’ brother Richard was born in 1906. We were able to find a birth record for a child of John and Fanny, born on February 2, 1906, but no first name is listed. It is very likely that this birth record is for Richard, who according to the 1921 Census was born in 1906.

What we publish is not a complete history of any family and is based on the documents that are available. We welcome photos and information to fill in the gaps. See you next week for part 3.


Lorene BridgenBrown-Nelson Family